Suede and British Sea Power playing in the grounds of Hampstead’s Kenwood House is an irresistible opportunity, especially as complaints from nearby residents mean concerts here are few and far between. As Suede’s set draws to a close, Brett Anderson remarks how pleased he is to be back in Hampstead, an area he loves. As headliners, Suede are indeed a welcome addition to the Kenwood House Live by the Lake series.
After a promising set by relative newcomers Teleman, British Sea Power take to the stage. I saw them at Hop Farm in 2009 where they performed to a small crowd, up against Paul Weller (and Roger Daltrey) on the main stage and it was all a bit underwhelming. Since then, they have come on leaps and bounds, with a stronger sound and a confidence that mirrors their strong eco message and British retro vibe.
Nestled among foliage and smoke, theirs was a short and concise set (too short for me) – opening with the uplifting Machineries of Joy, followed by anthemic Waving Flags, which includes their flag-waving bear. The high quality, giant screens on either side of the stage are used to great effect during an instrumental number, showing dramatic footage of birds, glaciers, and icebergs crashing into the sea. Full marks to the sound mix too which offers near-perfect clarity.
The bear, and a larger companion, made a return for the latter part of the set, which ends with Carrion. Jan Scott Wilkinson’s vocals have a more assured and less whispery delivery, and this works in the band’s favour.
There’s a palpable feel of excitement in the air as Suede take to the stage.
The band create a moody slow start to the set with The Big Time before unleashing their full power. Still retaining his floppy hair and lean, angular frame, Brett Anderson is undoubtedly genetically blessed. His days of edgy youth are over and he seems at ease with the man he’s become, confident but without arrogance. More importantly, the voice is still there, with its breaks, its Bowie-esque, southern-dialect charm. And with a set that sees him sing continuously for around one and a half hours, it didn’t let him down.
The set was peppered with classics, Trash, Animal Nitrate, The Drowners. Numbers from the band’s latest release Bloodsports are slotted in here and there, although It Starts and Ends with You with its irresistible hooks, sounds like a number from an earlier period. So young… The crowd sings, swept along on a tide of memories, but suddenly we are brought back to earth by Brett’s announcement that the band must drop one song as time is running out… but luckily there’s time for a couple more. They play Beautiful Ones for an audience singalong finale.
Kenwood House livebythelake
Kenwood House is more well-known for its classical music concerts, in which bringing a picnic is part of the experience. However food, drink and alcohol are banned for rock concerts, with facilities provided on site. Food provision was adequate: several food concession stands: burgers, sausages, fish & chips and sandwiches, sushi. Also a Kentish cider stand: £4.50 a pint of elderflower or regular cider.
There was only one bar on site which was woefully inadequate, serving small bottles of beer at £4 each. For a short evening concert it seems inconsiderate to expect people to spend up to 20 minutes queuing for drink.
Tip: bring a picnic and sit outside the festival arena on the grassy slopes until the music starts. If you don’t have a ticket, music can definitely be heard from outside, but you won’t be able to see the main stage.